Koti Saavedra (Flipfloppery), the creator of the webcomic Awaken, shares her creative process and inspiration behind her art and storytelling.
Described as a psychological action story combined with shōnen elements, Awaken takes place in a dystopian world. Piras, a young man aspiring to become one of Nova city’s elite military knights, discovers a conspiracy that eventually shifts everything he’s been taught before. Now branded as a terrorist, he escapes through the desert outside Nova with rebels Nyl and Cian. Defected guard Faen also joins them, sparking tension between him and Piras.
I listed Awaken in my April webcomic roundup for its dynamic characterization and fantastic worldbuilding. Here, Koti takes the time to discuss the webcomic’s origins and her plans for future projects.
The Geekiary: Happy to have you here! Let’s start by introducing yourself!
Koti Saavedra: Hi! Thanks a lot for this opportunity! I’m Koti Saavedra aka Flipfloppery, an animator and comic artist from Chile who simply likes to make the stories I would’ve liked to see when I was younger. I enjoy many genres like psychological, fantasy, scifi, horror, action and adventure, but they’re always sprinkled with my passion for mystery solving, so that’s what you’ll find in my work.
TG: Awaken is a captivating and complex story with complicated characters and clever turning points. It’s a dystopian webcomic that reminds me of YA SFF novels and (of course) shōnen anime, but it’s just as page-turning and compelling. I’m so excited to see where you take Awaken in the future. How has this story come about for you? What’s your creative process?
KS: This story has haunted me since I was about 17 years old! It’s changed A LOT, completely even, since then. Change of genre, change of universe, change of protagonist… It all became clearer, and less about the particular things I liked (which were tribal elves) and more about what worked when I stuck to a base concept and started building from there. The story is still a mix and match of a lot of subjects and ideas that I enjoy, but it all is put together in function of the underlying idea I want to convey. This I believe has made the structural base a lot more solid, and in return, has given me freedom to improvise in other aspects without the risk of getting lost and derailed.
As for the practical creative process, well, I do the conceptual work first, which are general ideas and general ideas about who the characters are. After that I just write, not all, but the key moments of the story. Later on, when it’s time for me to start making the chapters, I figure out how to go from point A to point B. I’ll admit it’s a bit messy, there’s still plenty of ways to get to the same place, but at some point, I learned that when I planned in detail too far ahead, I didn’t like the ideas anymore when it was time to actually execute them, it’s better for me to have some flexibility. Also, who doesn’t love to come up with the plot the same day you have to post the page, gotta love working under pressure!
TG: For me, the spark of Awaken is the character dynamics. Your characters are memorable and I’m impressed by your attention to detail when it comes to your characters’ reactions to certain situations. Of course, it’s a shōnen inspired story, so it’s expected for even the most minor characters to have a distinguishable trait. How do you manage the large ensemble of characters in Awaken?
KS: Ah! Thanks a lot! I like to think about my characters as I think of real people. Complex, flawed, and with tons of masks over their soft interior. I just try to deeply understand them and let them react how I think they would. As for the large ensemble, to be honest I feel it’s been very difficult, especially considering webcomic-time.
The story so far focuses like 90% on Piras, the main character, and a lot of the other characters (and even Piras himself) are often sustained and understood through preconceptions, tropes, and bias… which is completely fine, as I aim to deconstruct a few things about the shōnen genre.
I’ve avoided going deep into the supporting cast – I’m just starting to do that with the main characters. If I tried to be more ambitious and really give time to all the characters Awaken has, it would be a big unfocused mess. I’ve decided to simply trust Piras and his POV of events to lead and glue the story and the rest of the characters together.
TG: What are your favorite books, TV series, movies, or other media? Anything that inspired Awaken?
KS: It’s really extremely difficult for me to pinpoint particular pieces that inspired Awaken. It’s a mix of a lot of concepts and ideas I like and resonate with. From magic systems, psychology/philosophy, fun shonen fights, to personal political and ecological views… It’s been an interesting exercise for me to match these in a coherent, cohesive idea.
I liked The Lord of the Rings a lot when I was a teenager. I liked the elves and nature, although it felt too fantastic and escapist sometimes. Later on, the movie Princess Mononoke marked me (Oh gosh, that makes me remember how much I resonated with this movie called Ferngully: The Last Rainforest when I was little haha). I guess those pieces of media were the ones that helped develop the concept of Awaken in my mind the most.
I know that what one sees of Awaken when they start reading might make this seem out of the blue, but I have a weird way of building stories, and I like to keep my readers in the dark and baited with lighter flashy stuff, while I slowly unfold the ideas that are deeper and more important to me.
TG: Are you working or planning anything besides Awaken?
KS: I have several comic ideas on the backburner, although Awaken is such an extensive and demanding story that most of my ideas are in the conceptual phase and will remain so for a long time.
There’s two that I’ve delved into more deeply recently, though. To avoid burning out, sort of (avoid comic burnout, by working on other comics, smh.)
Lovelixir, which is a comedy/fantasy/erotic/romance story about an elf -chased by a hot group of badies- and her reluctant orc bodyguard. Extremely lighthearted.
And Loophole, a romance/spiritual one-shot about past lives and soulmates. Kind of artsy.
They’re not like Awaken at all, I guess that’s what interests me about them. Romance is not something that I’ll go too much into in my current comic, so having the space to explore that elsewhere is very refreshing and energizing for me. Both will be available at my Patreon before any public release, although I might try to use other platforms for them as well in the future.
For more great webcomic recommendations, check out our Wednesday Webcomics archives!
Author: Brahidaliz Martinez
Brahidaliz (pronounced Bra-da-leez) is a 2019 graduate of American University’s MFA in creative writing program. Their cross-genre chapbook, Coquí’s Song, is forthcoming (2023) from Mason Jar Press.
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